Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Leroy Pope Mansion in Huntsville, Alabama, for the purpose of marketing it for sale. The home was in the same family for generations and was later granted to University of Alabama in Huntsville for use as the University President’s home. The experience was an incredible walk through history.
The then-owner told us of her family’s escapades on the property’s sprawling grounds, approximately 6 acres in the very core of the city. Horseback riding on the back lawn, cool summer breezes on one of many porches, the groundskeeper’s “boxwood hospital” on the property were a few stories I remember vividly. The “boxwood hospital” was populated with boxwood shrubs as tall as any person I’ve ever met and as wide as an automobile… The plants would be transplanted to this area when they began to touch so that the leaves could fill back in wherever touching had caused the leaves to wither and die. Full boxwoods would then be transplanted again throughout the property. Fascinating.
My favorite experience of the entire period during which we marketed and sold this unparalleled property was all of the visits to the “widow’s walk”, a dramatic name for a viewing area at the top of the home. Up, up, up through the attic and into the absolute tippy top of the roofline one can see – literally- a 270 to 360 degree view of Huntsville, depending on the season. True to form, Leroy Pope picked the highest point of his “city” and built his home where he could view every square inch of it.
Other properties were later built around the Pope Mansion, development occurred on the mountain east of it and small cities began nearby. One of Pope’s former friends even built a house in front of it, stretching the ceiling heights to 16 feet in a spiteful attempt to block the city founder’s view. Today, 200+ years later, that house is still well known as the “Spite House.”
So today, when I visit another unique downtown house built downhill of the north of the Pope Mansion’s front portico, I imagine a girl on a horse in a warm summer breeze, looking down the ivy covered hillside at a cozy Twickenham cottage being built on Eustis Street. I wonder, did she still call the street “Maiden Lane” as it had been called in the past? Did the ancestors of the red foxes of Twickenham roam the land then as they do today? Oh, to be able to travel back in time to have a glimpse of times gone by…!
I look up the hillside in the backyard and see the home on the hill built by Huntsville’s first owner. It’s a quiet view of history that is full of mystery, fun and nostalgia. The backyard is visible from these photos for 418 Eustis, that quaint Twickenham cottage to Pope’s north. It has been lovingly renovated only steps from the historic Courthouse Square. Enjoy!